The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing an exceptional level of reverse migration of Nepali migrant workers from the destination countries and places. The current global pandemic is increasing health and safety risks.
There are reports of migrant workers being unemployed, unpaid, and at the mercy of the employers, resulting in them living off their inadequate savings. Nepal began to see a significant influx of migrant returnee people from India as India saw an increase in new cases throughout the country.
Nepali migrant workers coming from India struggled to get back as India announced its own nationwide lockdown from March 25. Many walked hundreds of miles through the Indian lockdown and finally came to the border towns and enter Nepal from designated 20 border points.
This study was undertaken to identify the impact of COVID-19 on Migrant workers in Kanchanpur, Kailali, Doti and Achham district. It covered 1,572 migrant’s returnees. The multistage stratified systematic random sampling method was adopted to identify the respondents for the survey. The majority 94.3%, were male. The mean age of the migrant’s returnee is 29 years. 33.8% of respondents have studied up to grade 6 to 10. Most of the migrant’s returnee HHs (78.4%) fall into the vulnerability category. 19.4 % of the respondents stated that they have a person with Disability (PWD) family members in the HHs and 64.1% of respondents fall under Poor and Food Insecure (PFI) household. 97.1% of migrant returnees come back from abroad, while 2.9% returned from other districts of Nepal. The respondents that returned from abroad, 98.2% returned from India, while 1.8% returned from Gulf countries i.e. Dubai, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
98.7% of migrant’s returnee have lost their household livelihood due to COVID-19. The key reasons for the disruption in their current livelihoods activities are (i) shutdown of markets due to lockdown,
(ii) had to stay at home to look after their children due to school closures, (iii) impact on markets due to the economic downturn (iv) travel restrictions and contract termination were also a reason for livelihood loss.
The main food source for the HHS is its crop production, livestock rearing, and purchasing from the market. 12% of migrant’s returnee HHs do not have food stock; whereas 37.8% have food stock for 3 months and 30.8% have food stock for 6 months.
Likewise, 38.2% of the respondents purchase more than half of the food items from the market. 40.8% of respondents believe that their local marker places are not safe in terms of the spread of COVID-19.
The women’s workload has increased significantly after the COVID-19 pandemic; 77.2% agreed that women’s workload has increased mainly in terms of preparing and managing food for their family, taking care of their children and livestock. Mostly, 84.1% adult female member and 73.4% adult male members of the family is most stressed in the current situation. 57.5% agreed that the risk of Gender-Based Violence has increased. There is a need to create livelihood opportunities for the migrant’s returnee to make an environment to use their skill. Of returnees, 56.2% have agriculture-related skills; 35.5% have cooking skills, 6.5% have housing construction skills; 6.3% have iron smith skill, 5.2% are skilled in driving. Similarly, 5.4% have tailoring and driving skills respectively.